A MAN who murdered his friend before setting fire to her body in a lay-by in an attempted to destroy evidence has been handed a life sentence.
Clive O’Connor, 58, of Bilston, Wolverhampton, was sentenced at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court on Friday, a day after he was found guilty of the murder of 52-year-old Jomaa Jerarre.
He must serve a minimum of 25 years before he can be released.
Chief Inspector Dan Ison, who led the investigation into Ms Jerarre’s death, described O’Connor as ‘ruthless and sinister’.
“My thoughts remain with Jomaa’s family and friends,” he said.
“O’Connor will now face the consequences of his ruthless and sinister actions with at least 25 years in prison.
“I would like to acknowledge the professional and thorough work of my colleagues in bringing about the early arrest in the case and for their dedication in bringing the investigation to this conclusion.”
Ms Jerarre and O’Connor had been friends and evidence showed that she was living at his flat in Bilston prior to her death.
It was determined that Ms Jerarre died between August 3 and 4, after which O’Connor stored her body in a chest freezer in his home for a number of days.
He then left her in the lay-by on the A454 Bridgnorth Road, close to Perton in Staffordshire, where he set fire to her body in an attempted to destroy evidence and conceal how she died.
Ms Jerarre’s remains were found just before 2.30am on August 9, 2021 and it was quickly established that an accelerant had been used.
Police were able to obtain a palm print from the remains, which the national fingerprint database indicated belonged to Ms Jerarre, with her identity later confirmed using DNA.
O’Connor was identified as one of the last people to see Ms Jerarre alive and he was arrested on suspicion of murder four days after the body was discovered.
He told detectives he last saw Ms Jerarre alive in mid-July 2021, however, CCTV footage showed him purchasing items using her debit card at various shops in Bilston up until July 31.
The car that O’Connor used, a green Nissan Micra, was seen three times between midnight and 1.40am on August 9 near to where Ms Jerarre’s body was found.
Witnesses saw a small car in the lay-by and a man wearing a bright orange T-shirt next to it, before a fire was spotted in the area minutes later.
Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) picked up the Nissan Micra just after 9pm the previous night and showed the driver wearing a bright orange top.
CCTV confirmed O’Connor was wearing an orange football shirt, which was later seized from his flat.
Forceful neck compressions
Although a cause of death could not be determined due to decomposition and damage caused by the fire, there was no evidence that Ms Jerarre’s cause of death was natural or toxicological.
The post mortem found that she had had received two forceful neck compressions causing fractures, the most recent being inflicted five to 10 days before she died.
The possibility that she died as a result of fatal neck compression could not be discounted.
Ms Jerarre also had unexplained bruising to her back and upper chest.
“I hope the conviction of O’Connor will bring justice to Jomaa’s family and friends who have shown immense strength throughout the investigation,” added Chief Inspector Ison.
“Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time.”